The Ingredient That Will Change Your Chili Forever

Whether you prefer it with a side of cornbread, topped with a layer of shredded cheese, or even chugged from a can, there's nothing like a warm and hearty chili to fuel your body and soul. The recipes and styles vary by region, and the inclusion of beans remains up for debate, but there's one unexpected ingredient that's bound to satisfy every chili lover's taste buds. 

According to The Kitchn, that ingredient is cocoa powder. You may associate chocolate with dessert, but rest assured, adding cocoa powder won't make your chili sickeningly sweet. Instead, it'll contribute a layer of richness and balance out the spiciness. Especially in plant-based chili where the savory quality of meat is absent, cocoa powder adds complexity of flavor.

As MasterClass explains, chocolate goes well with chili pepper because they share a similar flavor profile. When combined, therefore, the smoky, nutty, and earthy notes are brought out. If you've ever had traditional Mexican mole, the complementary nature of these two ingredients is precisely why the dish is so uniquely satisfying. Adding cocoa powder to chili has the same effect.

How much cocoa powder should you add to chili?

When it comes to adding cocoa powder to chili, don't worry about being too heavy-handed, because you'll need more than a pinch of the stuff to make a difference. While The Kitchn suggests starting with one tablespoon and working up from there, Paula Deen's recipe for chili calls for two tablespoons of cocoa powder to start.

New York Times Cooking, on the other hand, recommends using four ounces of chopped dark chocolate rather than cocoa powder. This will yield similar tasting results, but since it's a different form of chocolate, you'll add it at a different point in the cooking process. Whereas cocoa powder is added after the rest of the spices and right before the tomatoes and broth, chopped dark chocolate is stirred in after the tomatoes and broth, along with the beans, if you decide to add them. Just make sure to use the unsweetened kind, and your chili is sure to turn out delicious every time.